FAO, Ministry of Water to promote drip irrigation

Hauwa Mustapha

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As part of efforts to ensure sustainable food production through developed and efficient irrigation systems, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) are going to implement a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) for promoting drip irrigation in the country.

This was revealed during a meeting in Abuja between the FAO Representative in Nigeria and to the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS), Fred Kafeero and the Minister of Water Resources, Engineer Suleiman Hussein Adamu.

Speaking at the meeting, with officials from FAO and FMWR also in attendance, Mr Kafeero, said with technical and financial support from FAO, the project is a continuation of the collaboration between his Organization and the Ministry which aims to guarantee agriculture and food production all year round.

“We have been working together to support issues on policy and strategies especially those related to irrigation in the country and I would like to commend the Ministry for supporting agriculture so as to have food production throughout the year through proper use of water resources especially at the time when we endure climate change effects,” he remarked.

The FAO Representative reiterated FAO’s commitment and assurance to continue interfacing with the Ministry on a regular basis to support Nigeria in its efforts to attain food security and nutrition.

Giving details about the project, FAO Assistance Representative (Programme), Abubakar Suleiman, said that TCPs are resourced by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Agency to support requests by member countries in addressing or supporting specific technical issues and in this case for Nigeria it is drip irrigation.

“These interventions provide catalyst support to promote certain technologies or innovative ideas and in this case, Irrigation Department of the Ministry identified drip irrigation as an innovative approach to promote access to irrigation facilities particularly for smallholder farmers,” he said.

Mr Suleiman added that the TCP between FAO and the Ministry, which is implemented between June 2021 and December 2022, will also build institutional capacity around the existing river basin authorities in the country that has the mandate as well to promote access to water for agriculture and related systems.

According to him, the intervention aims to identify and convert suitable (and existing) public irrigation projects from flood-based irrigation systems to low-energy drip irrigation systems.

“The idea is to employ efficient on-farm water management practices to produce even more crops, on the same land, using less amount of water,” he added.

On his part, the Honourable Engineer Adamu pointed out that there is a natural synergy between FAO and the Ministry and appreciated the support through the intervention.

“This particular intervention falls very much in line with our irrigation policy and two-year programme because we have no other option, particularly with climate change effects, other than thinking critically on how to conserve the water,” he said adding “We cannot just continue with business as usual.”

The Honourable Minister disclosed that he has been to some countries with water scarcity like Morocco where drip irrigation was effectively used in agriculture and food production. “This is something that we need to promote in Nigeria. We are starting at a small but we will need to scale up in order for it to be used all across the country. This is why we need to take drip irrigation farming very seriously,” he said.

Engineer Adamu pointed out that there could be some challenges along the way in the implementation but through proper leadership, they will be overcome. “I know costs could be an issue and also the people’s mindset is another challenge. However, as leaders, we need to show the people what is right,”.